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Substance Use: Harm Reduction

Improving outcomes for people who use drugs in Wisconsin

Harm reduction is an approach that engages directly with people who use drugs to prevent overdoses and the spread of infectious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis C. It focuses on empowering people who use drugs to make safer choices to help prevent negative health outcomes. 

Providing comfort by clasping hands

People who use drugs face unique circumstances and challenges that greatly affect their mental and physical health. Harm reduction programs are committed to addressing discrimination, stigma, and ensuring that people who use drugs have access to essential health services. A set of key principles guide harm reduction approaches:

  • Be non-judgmental and treat people with dignity and respect
  • Offer holistic and person-centered services
  • Allow people with lived experience to be leaders
  • Promote feasible and evidence-based interventions

People who practice harm reduction accept people who use drugs “as they are” and “where they are” in their lives without judgement.

Harm reduction programs for people who use drugs aim to make drug use less risky, prevent poor outcomes, promote better health, and connect people to essential resources. They provide supplies, education, and tools to help reduce the risk of disease, infection, injury, and death. Harm reduction and drug user health programs include a range of services and approaches, including:

Harm reduction programs that provide services and supplies such as naloxone, safe injection supplies, and drug checking tools save lives and connect people with addiction treatment services and medical care.

These programs create positive change by working directly with people who use drugs without judgement, coercion, or discrimination while recognizing people do not need to stop using drugs to receive support and care.

There are critical gaps in access to harm reduction resources in Wisconsin. To reduce the rate of overdoses and the spread of infectious diseases associated with injection drug use, it is critical to expand harm reduction services throughout the state.

The HRRT seeks to enhance and expand harm reduction services in Wisconsin to reduce injection-related infections and opioid-related deaths.

Services offered by the HRRT

Mobile services

The mobile services the HRRT offers include linkage to community-based resources in high-risk communities, point-of-care testing and supplies at no cost such as:

  • Syringes
  • Nasal NARCAN
  • IM naloxone
  • Fentanyl and xylazine test strips
  • Safer sex supplies
  • Hygiene and comfort items
Technical assistance

The HRRT also provides technical support and can refer clients to organizations offering mail order harm reduction services.

Priority locations

The HRRT is prioritizing offering services in rural locations. Currently the counties the HRRT is offering services are:

  • Walworth
  • Dodge
  • Manitowoc
  • Jefferson
  • Monroe
  • Sauk
  • Wood
  • Portage
  • Juneau

Find out when the HRRT will be in your area by emailing

Technical assistance

Drug User Health Coordinator: Heidi Olson-Streed


Safety First- Comprehensive, Harm-Reduction Based, Drug Intervention Curriculum for high school students

Fact sheets

Last revised December 4, 2023